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Tsai Ing-wen given a new name after meeting Yami on Orchid Island

The photo shows President Tsai Ing-wen (second from left) is talking to Siyapen Nganaen (first from left) on August 15.

Tsai In-wen given a new name on Orchid Island

The photo shows President Tsai Ing-wen (second from left) is talking to Siyapen Nganaen (first from left) on August 15.

President Tsai Ing-wen has become the first president of Taiwan to visit the country’s second largest off-shore island to address the issue of radioactive waste. During her first visit to the indigenous people on Orchid Island, also known as Lanyu, Tsai was given the native name of “Dugan” by a wise old Yami man, Siyapen Nganaen, meaning the person at the helm with great wisdom.

Back in 1980, the government of Taiwan built a nuclear waste repository on Orchid Island without the consent of the local residents and indigenous people, namely the Yami tribe. Over the past four decades, a total of four large anti-nuclear protests had been staged to furiously demand the removal of radioactive waste from the island but to no avail. In a speech on the newly established Indigenous Peoples Day, President Tsai Ing-wen apologized to indigenous residents nationwide for government misconduct and a plethora of wrongs over nearly a half century, including the waste on Orchid Island.

Tsai flew to Orchid Island on Monday and met locals to listen to their thoughts on the notorious radioactive waste and responded to their calls.

According to the Chinese-language official website of the Lanyu township office, Orchid Island is a city of Taitung only 49 nautical miles away. The latest census data shows that the island is mostly populated by the Yami, who account for 88 percent of total population on this 45-square-kilometer island.

The small island is said to have accommodated low-level radioactive solid waste from nuclear power plants and medical, industrial, and academic research sectors from the main island, which is believed to produce toxic substances that have contaminated local surface water and the ocean nearby.

In a public speech made on August 1, Tsai apologized to the Yami people on behalf of the government and promised to provide the Yami tribe appropriate compensation before finding a permanent solution for the waste.